John Kinross Scholar in 2005.
Mei Liong, Home Sweet Home Series, Reunion of East and West
How did the experience affect you as an individual?
I can still remember that my experience clearly; it is as follow: First of all, I am a Malaysian with Chinese ethnicity. For more than a decade, I am still very much appreciating this opportunity that
granted and enable me opportunity to explore myself in Florence for two months. It is an unforgettable and beautiful moments traveling in Florence, where it is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. I was born in a small fishing village in the northern part of Malaysia. Malaysia is a tropical country with all year round summer, multiracial, and multicultural elements. Besides these, in history it was also one of the many colonies of the United Kingdom.
During my two months travelling in Florence, I was able to explore different cultures and life styles, and I could feel the different from Scotland and Malaysia. Especially, the colour, textures, and as
well as the architectural designs of this city, it impressed me so much. Firstly, it made me felt like living to the moments of medieval time. It was just like a movie I had seen before. Florence
is the medieval time city but broadly embrace with lots of different cultural elements. Secondly, it is a place embedded with existing origin medieval cultural elements but also embracing the new cultural aspects. In this busy city, its architectural design, foods and commodities as seen around its merchant stores/market, attracted tourists from all over the world. It is a place embraces broadly by authentic and modern cultural elements, the juxtaposition of east and west, and infuses with strong sense of globalisation.
Apart from that, I would never feel lost and nervous when I explore myself by walking in this busy city. Instead, I felt safe and excited wherever and whenever I walked myself alone in this city if
I used the Dome as the indicator for me to walk back to the city centre, where it is next to my accommodation. It had open up my mind, influenced my way of seeing and interpretation as an artist until today, and even 15 years after I have returned to my home country.
What was the impact on your practice?
The most impact on me, it is as follow: (i) The exterior and interior design of the famous building, such as Dome, Museum of Michelangelo, and Uffizi Gallery, it had given me extraordinary experience visiting these places. Notably, it was the moment of walking up to the Dome and reaching its top. I could see the city skylines and textures from the building’s top roofs and the street scenes in bird-eye-view. I have discovered lots of linear structures, textures and colour at this moment. Mainly, the linear construction of the building and its composition of the roof, it has inspired me to produce my artworks for the archives of John Kinross Travelling with the linear structure and incorporated with the usage of textures.
(ii) It impressed me and impacted my artwork. In addition, the juxtaposition of the east and west cultural elements that I have encountered, for example, Japanese and Chinese tourists there, could discover merchants stores fill with different products from different countries, and jewellery and fabric from Asian countries. Therefore, I was amazed by the friendliness and harmony of this medieval city of the modern world as it embraces diverse cultures from all over the world. Thus, it inspired me to produce my artworks under the theme of “East and West,” the beauty and harmony of the juxtaposition of the Western and Oriental culture.
(iii) The weather of a Mediterranean country and the lighting of this city is impressive to me. I could see the differences from the colour of the vegetables, fruits, and gardens. Therefore, garden and plants are my favourite subject-matter for my artwork series depicting the countries of origin we come from or stay.
What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and you work?
Throughout the years, I am still using lines as element or linear structure similar to the exterior design and construction of the architectural design, which I have seen in Florence. Besides, the richness of the shapes, colours, and textures of the commodity or culture observed from the merchant stores or local people, etc. These are always part of my interested subject-matter of my artworks. Sometimes, I will weave up all those small pieces of my experience of travelling to my current one through visuals by using the element of line, colour, and texture in abstract forms.
(ii) It reminds me of travelling is not only to explore the places/cities by looking at the design of the building, shopping and eating the authentic local foods but to record and interpret the experience and journey through visual diaries by means of sketching, drawing, and painting. As to the trips that I have made earlier to some old towns and cities in my home country, I also explored and compared each of my trips to other cities, which I have been visited through the years, such as Bali, Beijing, and Chiang Rai, Hyatt, Mataran, and Sarawak after the trip of Florence’s. I have gotten excitement in discovering the ethnic group culture and the co-existing cultural elements and make comparison and contrast among them, also, make interpretation and connection among them in my current works of art or palette.
(iii) Nowadays, as a painter and artist, I can appreciate and embrace different cultures that I have encountered and seen with no boundaries in mind.
(iv) Whenever I visit a new place, I would first understand its origin and its authentic beauty of the architectural design, followed by the daily life of the people and objects, street scenes that I have encountered during my visit to any new places. From its most basic structural design of the old building to the ordinary objects, such as foods and display items of the architectural design, street scenes and the interactions of the local people, etc. After the experience, I interpret it with the art elements of lines, colours, textures and symbols with my palette through my artworks.
(v) I love to interpret the beauty of the cultures and scenery of which I have encountered daily life with line, texture, and colour. As one can see the most of my artworks are always created with the application of linear structure, vivid colours, and rich textures with the subject matters of daily life, i.e., building, still-life, and landscapes. I tend to use the different colours scheme to depict the temperature and moment of time of my tropical country in my current artwork. It is more to a combination of vivid colours, the structure of interior space and still life, the different moments of the landscapes too.
(vi) I treat my art creativity as a ritual to celebrate the beauty of mixed ethnic and traditional cultural elements. Also, as a form of visual diary to record the juxtaposition of the east and west cultural elements, authentic and popular cultural symbols which I have encountered in my daily life. No matter where do I live and travel after my first trip to a world cultural centre, Florence, since year 2005.
(vii) Besides that, As one of the scholars of John Kinross Travelling Scholarship. I have been trying my best to keep in touch and contact with Royal Scottish Academy Award by sending my artworks to participate the RSA Open Show since year 2013 till current, and also joined the membership of RSA. I wish I can continue to keep in touch and support the RSA and the Society in Scotland who used to give me lots of support and opportunities during my degree and master’s degree studies over there.
Currently, while working as an artist, I am also lecturing in the Faculty of Creative Industries, Univesity of Tunku Abdul Rahman, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The opportunities and support which have been given by RSA and John Kinross made my passion for art growing. Therefore, it has taken me another level up to do a Ph.D. study with the research topic of ‘Cultural product of handicraft Consumption in Malaysian Context’ and also ‘Tribal art of Southeast Asian’. I wish one day I could also share my research and studies of Southeast Asian art to the Scottish Royal Academy and the members too.